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3D printed art sculptures created by SUNY New Paltz students.
Case Study

3D printing across campus: The SMART Lab at SUNY New Paltz.

January 26, 2022

Students gain skills through finding solutions.

3D printing across campus. 

At the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz, 3D printing is open to the entire campus, from mechanical engineering and art, to English and philosophy. The school’s SMART (Stratasys MakerBot Additive Research and Teaching) Lab is equipped with more than 40 3D printers including Fortus and Connex systems and more than 35 MakerBots. The lab is a great resource not only for the university, but for local businesses. “We act as a central print service center for the entire campus and regional businesses,” said Dr. Daniel Freedman, dean of the School of Science and Engineering at SUNY New Paltz. “Local businesses come to our lab and explain a need they have, and we match them up with a student to design a solution.” 

Finding these solutions is an iterative process that helps our students gain skills and has a real impact on the community around us. That’s something students can see and learn from.

Learning through outreach.

Students are guided through the engineering and design processes by Kat Wilson, Assistant Director of the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center and Aaron Nelson, Director of the MakerBot Innovation Center. The lab has worked with almost 150 businesses in New York, from artists and entrepreneurs to companies like Mediprint, a medical supply company that creates anatomical models for clinical training and surgical planning. “Beyond our educational mission, this is really what we’re here for,” said Freedman. “Finding solutions is an iterative process that helps our students gain skills and has a real impact on the community around us. That’s something students can see and learn from.”


Engineering students use the lab to design toys for the children’s center on campus. The students spend time with the kids and their teachers to understand what toys they like and why. From there, students aim to build something the kids will love.

“3D printing makes it easy for students to design something, print it and put it in front of the children for immediate feedback,” said Dr. Jared Nelson, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “Do the kids want to play with the toy? Why or why not? Students use that knowledge to make changes and that process would not be possible without 3D printing. It’s a cornerstone of the class.” 

SUNY New Paltz engineering students use CAD to create
3D printed models.
An engineering student works as a lab tech in the SMART
Lab at SUNY New Paltz.

Training for the future.

The SMART Lab and MakerBot Innovation Center help professors make crossdiscipline ties. Itty Neuhaus, associate professor of art, shows students the marriage between technology and art can have real-life applications. Neuhaus spends time between semesters mapping icebergs in the Arctic, then she 3D prints them upon her return. “I want my students to draw inspiration from unexpected places,” said Neuhaus. “Once they find the things they truly care about, I encourage them to explore them in their art.”


Dr. Edward Hanson, assistant professor of mathematics, uses 3D printing to give a physical presence to theoretical objects that can be difficult to describe or draw. Helping students visualize concepts is key, especially for those who want to teach math in the future. “I noticed that the interactions with the software inspire students to learn aspects of mathematics and computer programming out of genuine interest and enjoyment,” Hanson said. “Students exposed to 3D printing will have a deeper relationship with technology that could increase their performance in the job market.”

Many degree programs now require students to utilize 3D printing in at least one course before graduation, giving SUNY New Paltz students an edge in their career search. As students enter the job market, their background and knowledge of 3D printing will give them a deeper relationship with technology, increasing their aptitude and career performance. 

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